What Do Creationists Teach? A guest post by Jonny Scaramanga

Today’s guestpost is by Jonny Scaramanga who blogs at Leaving Fundamentalism. One of Jonny’s areas of expertise is the teaching of creationists and he is perhaps the leading authority on the problems of ACE home school curriculum and learning systems, which teach creationism. On his blog, he also deals with other aspects of Fundamentalist Christianity. Be sure to visit there; it is one of my favorites.

Asking what Creationists teach is a bit like asking what Christians teach. It encompasses a lot of different doctrines. Broadly speaking, a Creationist is anyone who believes that God made the universe, which could include people who accept the theory of evolution, but think God started the process.

Dinosaurs with Humans

In the popular mind, though, “Creationist” almost always means “Christian Young-Earth Creationist“. These people believe that the book of Genesis is literally true. God initially made only two people, Adam and Eve, and everyone else is descended directly from them. The genealogies in Genesis are also literally true. You know, this stuff (KJV):

And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah:

And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters:

And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years:

And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.

And Methuselah lived an hundred eighty and seven years, and begat Lamech.

And Methuselah lived after he begat Lamech seven hundred eighty and two years, and begat sons and daughters:

And all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred sixty and nine years: and he died.

In the 17th Century, Bishop Ussher added up all the ages in the Bible, and calculated that the Earth must have started in 4004 BC. It is assumed that the Bible is not only an accurate record of history, but a complete one. Since the Bible only tells us enough history to go back 6000 years, Young Earth Creationists tend to accept this as the approximate age of the Earth, although they are usually happy to allow a margin of error for the Earth to be up to 10,000 years old.

There are Old Earth Creationists, too. Sometimes they believe that there was a gap between Genesis 1:1 (God made the heavens and the Earth) and Genesis 1:2 (The earth was without form and void). The logic is that God would not make anything without form and void, so something must have happened. Some Old Earth Creationists place prehistoric creatures, including dinosaurs, in this gap. From Genesis 1:2 onwards, they accept the Young Earth Creationists’ account.

Other Old Earth Creationists accept the “day-age” theory, that each “day” in Genesis 1 was in fact a great epoch, so the Earth could be many millions of years old. Young Earth advocates like Answers in Genesis regard Old Earth theories as heretical compromises which question the authority of God’s Holy Word.

Why does this matter?

For Young Earth Creationists, what’s at stake is not just whether we’re descended from apes. To advocates like Kent Hovind, the entire truth of Christianity hangs on whether or not Genesis is true. There are a few reasons for this.

  • It is believed that, if the Bible is the Word of God, it must have no mistakes. If we find a mistake in the Bible, it cannot be God’s Word, and that casts the entire Christian faith into doubt.
  • Creationists claim that Jesus believed that Noah’s Flood was a literal event. If Jesus was wrong about Noah, Creationists think that would be a considerable blow to his claim to be divine. Their evidence is Matthew 24:37-39 (NIV).

As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.

  • They also take Mark 10:6-9 as evidence that Jesus believed in a literal Adam and Eve (NIV):

But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.

Things not in the Bible

Although Creationism claims to be all about believing only that which is written in the Bible, in practice, Creationists make many claims not mentioned in Scripture. Here are some things commonly believed by Creationists, but not mentioned in Scripture:

  • The Grand Canyon was carved out by receding waters after Noah’s Flood.
  • A canopy of water vapour surrounded the Earth before the flood, creating a uniform tropical climate with no rain.
  • The speed of light has slowed down since Creation.
  • Dinosaurs were on Noah’s Ark. (Creationists argue that Biblical references to Leviathan and Behemoth are, in fact, references to dinosaurs)

Some Creationists make some extremely wild claims. The fundamentalist curriculum Accelerated Christian Education claims that the Loch Ness Monster exists, and this disproves evolution. Bill Cooper B.A. (hons), of England’s Creation Science Movement, claims that dinosaurs existed in Wales as recently as the start of the 20th century. Carl Baugh claims that fossilised dinosaur tracks exist beside human footprints in the Paluxy river bed, Texas.

It would be wonderful to believe these things, but sadly most scientists (and even most Creationists) accept that these are fanciful. But creationists are bent on trying to disprove evolution. Why is this so important?

Your observations and comments are welcome below.
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28 Responses to What Do Creationists Teach? A guest post by Jonny Scaramanga

  1. lanamhobbs says:

    YEC (and the necessity of infallibility of scripture) are huge Achilles heels in faith. The analogy plays out well, actually. Parents strive to make their children certain of these things so their faith will live forever. But, once an arrow gets through the cognitive dissonance and lodges in the heel, you sort of lose your will to keep that faith alive, having always been taught certain things MUST be true and seeing they aren’t.

    Like

    • Lana, Thank you for your comment; I think you are right on both counts!

      Even when I was a creationist, I thought YEC was weak and not a necessary conclusion from infallibility of scripture, but later I found infallibility of scripture to be untenable as well.

      As you say, to defend and teach these two things as critical to Christian belief backfires when it becomes apparent that they are wrong and people find it difficult to separate the baggage from Jesus. So they often throw out their faith with the baggage.

      In fact, I find that trusting Jesus easier and more solid without this kind of baggage.

      Like

      • lanamhobbs says:

        I think it would be easier (trusting Jesus without YEC baggage). I’ve left all the baggage behind but I’m looking for the real Jesus and/or something to hold on to and believe in.

        Like

        • Lana, if you are still looking for solid reasons for trusting Jesus and perhaps understanding him differently, I hope you find my blog helpful, because that is what it is all about. I have written most of my posts so far on the baggage side, but I hope to begin writing more on the Jesus side soon.

          Like

  2. Thanks for running my post Tim.

    I agree with Lana. It’s a very short-term strategy to teach YEC to kids. Some of them will stick with it, of course, but in modern society it’s very hard to shield children from the wealth of evidence that Creationism is not true. If you’ve been told all your life that the only options are atheism or Creationism, that’s going to make things very awkward.

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    • Jonny, it is I who must say thanks! Thank you for this guest post! You did an excellent job with it.

      I also like your response to Lana’s comment. YEC was losing steam when I was a child; the evidence against it was just too powerful. I understand why creationists decided to go on the offensive, but why they chose defend YEC as the critical view is beyond me. Even though I don’t believe in old earth creationism either, it seems that it would be easier to defend, but perhaps I am probably wrong in thinking that. If one is going to make a fantastic claim, I suppose the more fantastic it is the easier it is to accept and the harder it is to give up.

      Your observation is right on target; if the only alternatives are creationism or atheism, then to deny one is to embrace the other. Fortunately, those are not the only alternatives, but unfortunately, many people do not realize that.

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      • The_L says:

        Technically, there are 3 possibilities: atheism, creationism, and The Authorities Were Wrong. Which creates its own problems: if the authorities were wrong about YEC, what else were they wrong about? Which things did they get right?

        Because so much “baggage” (including dangerous forms of self-shaming that resulted in severe clinical depression) had, for me, been so inextricably wound up with my idea of “what a Christian is” that even knowing good, sensible Christians wasn’t enough. The words “Christian” and “Catholic” themselves were strongly linked to shame and YEC subconsciously, by years of conditioning, so that I, personally, cannot be a Christian anymore. If I ever convert back, it will take a near-miracle to tease apart the wheat from the chaff–the associations are just too strong.

        Intellectually, I know that people like you and the Slacktivist are good Christian men. Subconsciously, for me to be a Christian feels like having to be miserable again, and I nearly took my own life to escape the misery last time.

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        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          L,

          I certainly understand the difficulty of separating the wheat from the chaff due to our previous associations. However, I think it is well worth doing. By the way, if The Authorities in your three options is the Bible, then there is a fourth option: it wasn’t wrong, but we just misunderstood the message. If The Authorities are those who guided you (pastors. teachers, and such), then I say you should never put your full confidence in any authority. Always think for yourself.

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  3. Reblogged this on Leaving Fundamentalism and commented:
    A handy guide I wrote for Jesus Without Baggage about what Creationism is, and why it matters to Creationists.

    Like

  4. Emma-Leigh says:

    I remember asking my mum recently, “How did we get so many people from just two?” (not because I believe in YEC, but because I was curious what her answer would be). Her response was, very candidly, “There must have been a lot of incest in the beginning”, as if it was perfectly acceptable “back then”. WTF? That for me is more of an issue than any of the other points!!

    Like

    • Emma-Leigh, when I was a youthful creationist the answer I learned to ‘Where did Cain get his wife?’ was that it was his sister. Of course Adam and Eve’s children married each other, but it was not a problem because the fall was very recent and the blood was still pure.

      Now, because the blood is so corrupted, we should not do that anymore. I bought it at the time, but I was just a child.

      Like

      • The_L says:

        AiG used that exact same answer. The explanation was complicated and involved the following and probably a bunch of other things:

        – More rapid mutation rate after the Deluge because of the loss of the “vapor canopy”
        – Moses’s Laws hadn’t been written yet; they were written once the post-Deluge problems with incest were noticed.

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  5. davidwaldock says:

    Reblogged this on David Waldock's Blog and commented:
    A summary of Creationism from an educational perpective

    Like

  6. Elmo says:

    Denying science in any form is pointless as is the notion that the Bible is infallible.

    Like

  7. SHARAT BABU says:

    Dear Brother, Thank you so much for this spiritfilled messages to study and to meditate and to reach for others in India, i am Teaching to our Congregations and outreaches here, please share more regularly. Have you been to India to preach? please pray for us, we have much idolatry here and we want to win more souls. Please greet all the saints with you and ask them to pray for India. in Jesus Love, Evangelist Babu.

    Like

    • Hello Sharat,

      Neither Jonny nor I are preachers. I have never been to India, but I enjoy reading about the country and would love to see it. However, I am not likely to ever have that pleasure. I am glad you liked the blog post and hope you have continued success in your work!

      Like

  8. A former Christian says:

    This is not meant as an insult, but it’s very hard for me to understand how anybody buys into Christian ideology and feels they have genuinely left the “baggage” behind. I get guys like Ken Ham, Kent Hovind and Ray Comfort. They MUST maintain belief in the old-school dogma or the entire belief system evaporates. How one keeps Christian theology at all after giving up this self-delusion, and the hypocrisy that YECists seem to exhibit, is simply beyond me.

    — A former Christian

    Like

    • FC, I don’t take it as an insult. In fact I understand what you are saying quite well; many people agree that Christianity is all or nothing, and this includes some Christians and some non-Christians and former Christians.

      However, the essence of the message of Jesus is not bound up in the question of origins or other scientific evidences; it does not even depend on accepting the Bible as God’s word. There are many who embrace Jesus and his message and reject the baggage that is often attached to his message.

      Do you have other specific observations about following Jesus without baggage?

      Like

      • The_L says:

        For me, the baggage is subconscious and emotional. Sure, I know intellectually that the baggage isn’t necessary, but I can’t really see myself being Christian without the baggage, because the baggage was so wrapped up in my self-image as a Christian.

        Like

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Yes, L, it is sometimes difficult to identify the baggage. I have been working on it for more than 40 years. That is why I write this blog–to help others get a head start if they find my insights useful to them. I hope they are helpful to you.

          Like

  9. A former Christian says:

    To clarify: by “this self delusion” I meant the distrust of science, the denial of evidence… etc.

    Peace.

    Like

  10. Pingback: Why is Creation so Important to Creationists? | Jesus Without Baggage

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  12. Kevin Long says:

    Speaking as a Christian myself, and an Ex-Fundamentalist, I find that they suffer badly from circular reasoning.
    They say “I believe the Bible is true because the Bible says the Bible is true.” Ok, fine, that’s faith. Can’t argue with that, even if it is a tautology. Then they extrapolate “If any part of the Bible is untrue, then the whole Bible is a lie, and I believe lies and my life has no meaning.” This is an obvious logical error. Something needn’t be literally true to be true. Jesus regularly spoke in parables. Parables are events that never happened, but obviously they have value. The Apostle Paul mentions *IN THE BIBLE* on occasion that he’s speaking metaphorically. However even though this is self evident, Fundamentalists fear it, because it blurs the line between “Absolute Truth” and “My life is meaningless.”
    No one wants a meaningless life, it scares the crap out of everyone, so they hold on way too hard to the ‘absolute literalism’ like a life preserver, desparately trying to stay afloat in a sea of contradictory fact that, honestly, have *NOTHING* to do with the core of what Christianity is all about. Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God, your Lord and Savior? Have you been baptized? Do you live your life according to the guiding principles of mercy and forgiveness and compassion that Jesus Himself set down? Swell. You’re a Christian. Who gives a crap about all the other stuff?
    Did God make the universe in 7 days? If so, that’s admittedly pretty cool. Did God make the universe in 13 billion years? If so, that’s possibly even cooler still. Either way, though, God made the universe, so the only thing we’re really arguing about what kind of tools He keeps in His toolbox, which seems to me a rather pointless argument, theologically speaking.
    But they can’t focus on that. They can’t see the stuff that matters because they’re so focused on the circular falacy that if any of it isn’t literally true, then it’s all a lie.
    Then they completely ignore the value of faith (“The substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen”) and stupidly try to PROVE the Bible correct, PROVE the existence of God, PROVE their faith, which, if they could do it, means it isn’t faith anymore, right? If God wanted us to KNOW, He could just show up on the evening news, and -blammo- everyone knows. God doesn’t do this so (If we assume the existence of God), it follows that God doesn’t want us to KNOW, he wants us to BELIEVE. I don’t know why this is, I don’t know why we get brownie points for faith and not knowledge, but that’s the way the game is played.
    Fundamentalists are so scared, though, that they ignore this obvious thing, and miss many of the blessings of Christianity, in a mad dash to stave of the fear of uncertainty.
    Fundamentalism is oftentimes (but not always) driven by fear, and not love, and when it is, it is in no small part opposed to the very fundamentals of Christianity that it purports adherence to.

    Like

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Kevin, you said a whole lot of good stuff here! I think we are on the same wave length. I particularly liked your statement: “Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God, your Lord and Savior? Have you been baptized? Do you live your life according to the guiding principles of mercy and forgiveness and compassion that Jesus Himself set down? Swell. You’re a Christian. Who gives a crap about all the other stuff?”

      And I think you are on target about faith vs. proving the Bible is true. Faith alone means faith without works, but I think it also means faith in JESUS–not faith in the Bible. The Bible does not give us eternal life; Jesus does. Thanks for your comments.

      Like

  13. Pingback: How is Belief in Evolution Different from Faith? | Jesus Without Baggage

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